Used 2001 Volkswagen Passat Review

This is our favorite midsize sedan and wagon. Don't make your family vehicle choice without driving one.

what's new

The 2001.5 Passat arrives this spring with updated exterior styling, minor interior changes and a more powerful four-cylinder engine, but if you liked the "old" styling, a few 2001s should linger on dealership lots for a while. New features for the 2001 model year -- standard front and rear side curtain airbags, optional steering wheel controls for the audio and cruise for GLS (standard on the GLX) and a standard trunk entrapment release button -- carry over into 2001.5 Passats.

vehicle overview

Volkswagen has been busy recently, buying up smaller carmakers, designing 12- and 16-cylinder engines and creating a new line of luxury vehicles. But the company has also found time to tweak its already excellent Passat sedan and wagon for mid-2001.

The exterior styling of the 2001.5 Passat is sharper and more Audi-like than the previous iteration, with a chrome-trimmed grille, new clear-lens headlight and taillight clusters and integrated foglights. Volkswagen engineers also gave the car a more structurally rigid body, which will yield greater crashworthiness, better handling and tighter exterior panel fits. Of course, we already liked the Passat's physique, and those who like a few more rounded edges may want to stick with a 2001 model.

Base-trim Passats have become an even better value, as Volkswagen has given the 1.8-liter turbocharged engine a significant power boost. This engine now makes 170 horsepower (up from 150 for 2001) and a nearly lag-free 166 foot-pounds of torque (up from 155). This powerplant has always offered good acceleration (power upgrade or no), and it contributes to the Passat's overall grin factor.

The 2.8-liter V6 remains unchanged; it makes 190 horsepower and 206 ft-lbs of twist. Optional on Passat GLS models and standard on GLX models, this V6 puts the fun back in functional with its broad torque band and strong acceleration. Both engines can be mated to a five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. The latter transmission is an automanual, such that you can drive it as an automatic or shift the gears manually (no clutch, though!).

Regardless of drivetrain choice, all Passats offer superb steering, handling and braking. With ABS four-wheel discs standard on all trim levels, an independent front and rear suspension and perfectly weighted power rack-and-pinion steering, the Passat is one of the most entertaining midsize sedans or wagons. Some drivers might find body roll to be excessive during canyon runs, but overall the ride quality is excellent. Buyers in cold climates or seeking the stability of all-wheel drive can opt to equip their Passats with VW's 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system.

Inside the 2001.5 models, drivers will find the familiar Passat trimmings with a few more upscale-type features: chrome-trimmed gauges, a telescoping steering wheel and an updated center console with a wider front armrest, two integrated cupholders and a compartmentalized storage area. The backseat also receives an integrated armrest with a cupholder and additional storage.

Of course, the Passat already offered an impressive list of standard features. Items like air conditioning, cruise control, one-touch power windows, power locks, remote keyless entry, remote trunk release, full-size spare tire, side airbags and heated exterior mirrors are on the base GLS models. GLX trim adds the V6 engine, sunroof, heated front seats with driver seat memory, leather seat coverings and door inserts, variable intermittent wipers with heated jets and an auto-dimming day-night mirror. The new-for-2001 side curtain airbag system protects the heads of front and rear passengers. Seat-mounted side airbags for front passengers have been standard since the current-generation Passat was introduced in 1998.

These mid-year changes should only add to what is one of the best midsize sedans on the market. Based on a stretched Audi A4 platform and built with plenty of Audi parts, the Passat looks, feels and drives like a more substantial car than its base price tag would indicate. Mid-year styling updates should wear well in this new century and its solid construction should keep the car feeling new as the miles add up.

Before rushing out to buy that new Accord, Camry or Taurus, you'd do well to at least test-drive a Passat.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.